Is This Labor?
The thought of being in labor riddled Claudia with anxiety whenever she thought about it. The idea of the pain, the unknowns, the what-ifs, and the “will I have my baby in my car?!” plagued her thoughts. Now that she was aware that a rupture of membranes didn’t necessarily indicate the onset of labor, Claudia was curious as to HOW to tell when she would BE in labor, and if she would go into labor on her own or if she would experience an induction of labor. Her phone pinged with an appointment reminder: Labor Doula Prenatal Appointment Monday at 6pm. “That’s right!” Claudia spoke, “My doulas and I will be discussing this and more at our prenatal appointment.” Claudia began to jot down some questions to ask her doulas; and suddenly a wave of calm passed through her body.
How to Time Contractions
There’s an app for that! No really…there is. Long are the days of holding a timepiece in ones’ palm and watching the hands make their way around the face of the watch. Nowadays, with a smartphone screen, counting contractions are as simple as pushing a start and stop “button”.
Contraction timers are tracking how long the contractions are and how far apart they are coming. Timing a contraction: From the moment the feeling of a contraction begins to surge, start the timer. Stop the time when the contraction has eased and is no longer. That is called the duration of the contraction, or the lasting/length. When the next contraction begins, start the timer and repeat the action of stopping the timer (and noting time) when the contraction flees. The start time of the previous contraction, and the start time to this present contraction indicate the frequency of the contractions, or how far apart the contractions are. Repeat these steps as symptoms of labor present themselves.
What Pattern to Look for in Labor
While contractions can make their appearances at any time, it’s in the third trimester that these squeeze and release movements of the abdomen are really getting down to business. Deciphering the patterns of labor can help one to hone in on and own their birth experience. A consistent labor pattern is noticing that contractions are longer. On average a contraction can last 30 seconds to 90 seconds, depending on the stage of labor. Contractions are stronger. Active labor contractions make an individual stop and take notice. These contractions may be painful and they may take one’s breath away. Labor contractions come closer together. Just when you feel like you may be catching a break, here comes another contraction working to bring the baby down and dilate the cervix. In true labor, contractions are longer, stronger, and closer together.
Another item to take note of in patterns of labor is the 5-1-1 formula. This formula is: contractions surging FIVE minutes apart, lasting for ONE minute, coming consistently in this pattern for ONE hour. With that said, ANY amount of contractions surging within 5-10 minutes apart, consistently are worth taking note of, and preparing for next steps.
When should you call your provider
Knowing when to call your provider is up to you and the provider. At your weekly prenatal appointments leading up to the BIG day, you and your provider will have conversations about when to call them and/or when to head to the birthing facility. One thing to remember is that your provider works for YOU! Meaning, if at any time you feel like things are changing in the pregnancy, with the body, or with the baby, contact your provider. During labor, this is absolutely important so that your provider can be prepared to provide the necessary steps and procedures as needed. Ultimately, anytime you feel like contacting your provider as outlined in your agreement, do so.
When Should You Consider Moving to Your Birth Location
Being in a space that one feels safe, serene, and relaxed in is a gold mine when it comes to labor. For some, this is in their own living space. For others, this is their birthing facility. Moving one’s labor to their preferred birthing location is a big transition in the laboring process. Whenever you feel like you would like to be in the space of delivery, make it known.
Some important items to note, and some situations when heading to the facility is pertinent when deciding when to move to the birth location are:
- If contractions are 5-10 minutes apart, consistently
- Rupture of membranes have occurred
- Group B Strep positive
- Being a significant distance from the birthing facility
- When you no longer feel safe where you are laboring
Having a general understanding of laboring patterns in a prime example of “knowledge is power”. Understanding the general rhythms of labor and the dance of contractions can prepare one for the marathon that is birth.
Claudia thanked her Doulas as they exited her home. She was feeling grateful and well-informed. Her questions were answered, her concerns were heard, and her birth plan was written, discussed, and rewritten; all within her prenatal visit. Claudia understood the concepts of knowing “is this labor?”. She felt an overwhelming sense of empowerment knowing that SHE held the power to her birth, and that her amazing ensemble would be there for her.